Bring Out the Game Film!

May 25th, 2012

Category: News, Policy and Practice

A while back, I watched one of the sessions coach John Gruden conducted with then NFL quarterback prospect Andrew Luck in which they dissected game film and I got to thinking: Why don’t we do this as educators?

For sports, this makes sense – we all know that football and basketball are games of inches where teams practice more than they play in order to gain every advantage possible. But as I watched the show, I couldn’t but wonder what it would look like if we saw student learning as a game of inches? More specifically, what if we, as educators, practiced more than we played in order to continuously improve our craft?

As it currently stands, this structure has struggled to take hold in classrooms. For starters, the yard sticks (assessments) we use to measure success aren’t always aligned with our curriculum, do not measure rigorous, higher-order thinking skills, and more often serve as autopsies rather than actionable data. In addition to the assessments themselves, it often feels like we put teachers on the field/court ill-equipped to even play the game. How can we expect teachers to engage with student data and collectively improve practice if they aren’t prepared to do so in their training programs? Or how can we expect teachers to emulate best practices if they aren’t given the opportunity to learn from the best on a daily/weekly basis?

Critics argue that this demonstrates the inability of data-driven instruction to drive increases in student learning. I’d offer a different take (one that’s supported by the results of high-performing schools and preparation programs). What we need to do is follow Gruden’s (and the NFLs) lead and start giving teachers time to practice their craft – which is exactly what we’re beginning through Race to the Top.

Through Race to the Top, we are implementing various reforms to enable these practices to take hold. These include:

  • Data coaches – these are not meant to just go over data; rather, they are meant to spur conversations on what’s happening inside classrooms. For example, data might show that the lessons aren’t meeting the needs of certain types of learners and require re-teaching with corrections (this article highlights the Achievement Network’s efforts to utilize formative data to do so).
  • Professional learning communities – in these, the state is hoping to recreate Gruden’s efforts by encouraging teachers to dissect their craft every which way in order to continuously improve. As highlighted previously, other professions, such as medicine, are taking a much more proactive approach to incorporate coaching into professional growth practices.
  • Development coaches – we are getting principals into classrooms on a much more frequent basis – enabling them to better understand what’s happening in their building in order to provide more tailored support.

Also, through Race to the Top, the New Castle County Vo-Tech district is utilizing TeachScape to record teacher lessons in order to continuously improve practice, mirroring efforts that have shown promise through the MET Project, funded by The Gates Foundation.

So what could this look like in five years? I can already picture it now – a team of teachers, huddling around a projector, breaking down a lesson to determine what the teacher did well and what they could improve upon. In short, bring out the game film!

What do you think? Should we use “game film” to help improve our craft? If so, what are some of the barriers to making this happen? If not, why?

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Brett Turner



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